Wednesday, June 13th, 2018
I had heard “Stubborn Love” by The Lumineers before and I liked it. A LOT. But for some reason, when it came on Pandora’s Alabama Shakes Radio this specific afternoon, it stopped me in my tracks. I immediately got tears in my eyes and a heaviness in my heart. I wasn’t sure of the reason behind this visceral reaction but I knew it was deeply rooted somewhere in my soul and had to have everything to do with my mom. Why? I don’t know. I guess it’s all how we choose to interpret things as I am PRETTY SURE this song, as it is written, has nothing to do with what I have chosen to equate it to….
When I got home that evening, I found myself playing this song on repeat. I was singing my heart out and dancing around my kitchen as I cooked, imbibed on wine, and had a long-running text convo with my soul sister, Stephanie. As I hopped around and sang extremely off key, I realized this song had become my anthem for mom; I was admiring her strength, beauty, heart, soul, and remarkable spirit as I played it over, and over, and over again.
My phone started ringing and I looked down to see “Ma” on my caller ID. I was always happy to see her call, but this night was especially important. She hadn’t called in quite sometime and hadn’t been answering calls or responding to texts as the cancer and brain radiation had really taken a toll on her. So needless to say, when I saw her calling, I screamed (out of PURE JOY!), put the song on pause, and answered. I love the power of The Universe…
She seemed pretty lucid, and as always, so damn adorable. I told her I was going to work from home and come see her early the following day. She was happy and said, “I think that sounds nice,” in her sweet, squeaky voice. I told her I couldn’t wait to see her, and hug her, and kiss her, and feed her. She said she was excited too. As we both said “I love you” and “See you later” (never say goodbye, because goodbye is forever – she taught me that), I felt happy and positive. I couldn’t wait for it to be the next day (so I could squeeze her) but I also felt this weird sense of calm; I was truly joyful in that specific moment and completely present and at peace. I hadn’t felt that in years and it was nothing short of breathtaking.
I continued on with my evening – singing, dancing, and enjoying some chardonnay – as I looked forward to the morning and felt extremely grateful for my night.
The morning came and it came a lot quicker than I had anticipated. My aunt called shortly after 6:00 am to tell me that hospice said “contact the children and have them get here immediately” as my mom had been on morphine every hour since about midnight. I remember that drive over to my aunt’s house. It was a vibrantly sunny and rather humid morning. I was driving WAY TOO fast and lost my right contact after getting air over the railroad tracks and landing my Kia Soul HARD. Half blind, I pulled over, popped it back in, and made it to her house in less than 15 minutes. It usually took a little over 20.
And although I did get to keep my promise to my mom – to kiss her, and squeeze her, and tell her how much I love her – I also told her, for the last time, that I would “see her later.” She hung on, fought hard, and passed at 5:51pm.
Since her beautiful soul moved on, I have played this song every single day. I sing it at the top of my lungs, I cry, I dance around, and I smile. I have looked inward to figure out why this song resonates with me and my memories of her. Wondering what my interpretations for what the song, as a whole, means to me through some very specific verses, I have found this to be true:
“When we were young
Oh oh, we did enough
When it got cold,
Ooh ooh we bundled up
I can’t be told,
Ah ah, can’t be done”
I want her to know she was a great mother. She often apologized for being a terrible mother; she thought her perceived inability at being a dynamic mom was one of the reasons she had cancer. I want her to know that she did enough, that she was enough, and that we were absolutely cared for and felt her big, beautiful, unconditional love for us in its entirety. That no matter what, we made it through some of the darkest days in some of the most miraculous ways. And that fighting spirt, that she didn’t even know she had, was present every day through her fight against cancer.
“It’s better to feel pain, than nothing at all
The opposite of love’s indifference
So pay attention now
I’m standing on your porch screaming out
And I won’t leave until you come downstairs”
The pain I feel, in my solar plexus, is truly indescribable. This level of despair is undoubtedly linked to the immense depth of the love I have for her. The suffocating agony one endures as they watch their absolute favorite human becoming a shell of themselves at the hand of a truly horrendous disease is truly one of the most helpless feelings I have ever experienced.
Throughout this journey I wanted her to listen, be proactive, feel supported, and know I’d never leave her. I’d call her every morning and we would talk on my way to work. I looked forward to those calls. Every single day.
As her cancer continued to spread, her treatments got more intense, and her body and mind more weary, there’d be times she wouldn’t answer. There’d be days I would call 20 times in a row, without her picking up, and I would LOSE.MY.SHIT. I was scared beyond belief that something had happened, that she was gone. I’d call another 20 times until she’d answer. I would leave work and drive over, knocking on the windows, pounding on the door, and ringing her doorbell until she’d appear in the hallway and come to the door. I needed to know she was okay and I needed her to know that I was there, that I cared, and I that I loved her beyond compare.
“Keep your head up, keep your love
Keep your head up, my love
Keep your head up, my love
Keep your head up, keep your love”
She fought hard. For 3.5 years she fought a battle that kept knocking her down; she’d often say, “Can’t I just get a break?!” She went through a brutal surgery, 6 different chemo treatments, radiation on her chest, her back, and her brain… And no matter what, she kept fighting. When the cancer was relentlessly spreading, she fought harder. She kept her head up, never gave up, and did everything she could, everything she was capable of. She didn’t take “no” for an answer and she became her own advocate.
She did it. With grace, humility, love, humor, and vigor. She did it. And I truly hope she is as proud of herself as I am of her.
Stubborn Love? That she was. And I wouldn’t want her any other way.
Please enjoy this song as much as I do. For whatever reason(s) you choose.